Burn Your Idols!

Moses, another figure who who had a massive asshole moment.

Julia Serano, Whipping Girl Blog:

IMPORTANT ADDITION: When I say this post is about to be inside baseball and esoteric, it turns out what I meant was it’d be a soggy mess of impenetrable minor distinctions that are going to be a lot of foreign terms very fast for those who aren’t currently living the experience of being a trans* person who is connected to a robust queer community. And so I apologize for this. It was an experiment and like most experiments it failed horribly. For those still interested after this warning, I hope you find something to enjoy and that you keep this warning in mind. For those who have already zoomed on ahead, I leave my apologies.

Today’s post is over 6 months old. It’s not by a prominent wingnut. In fact, the author is someone I downright worship and whose other work I cannot recommend more strongly. It’s not some obvious complete failure of empathy like Richard Dawkins’s horrifying defense of child rape. In fact the focus of the post is kind of esoteric and might be a little inside baseball. In complete honesty, it’s not even that egregious of a fuck up really, more an example of how everyone can trip over themselves and be a complete dick every once in a while.

And on top of all that, when I say I worship her, I don’t just mean that I think she’s a good author and done great works, I mean she has my undying gratitude and is possibly my strongest modern heroine. Not only is her seminal work “Whipping Girl”, in my opinion, one of the best works on the subject of transwomen and one of the best trans* non-fiction books ever written and my personal go-to when pointing people to resources on understanding trans* issues (to the point where I usually own three copies at any given time so I can have one on the shelf, one for heavy referencing, and one for loaning out), but… It’s the work that finally junk-punched through my self-denial and got me to accept the obvious truth my brain had been trying to tell me for awhile. Reading Whipping Girl got me to stop diminishing myself and pretending that having a butch physical body meant I wasn’t a woman. It cut through all the societal messages that emphasized transsexual as being of an exaggerated gender performance and grounded arguments in actual biology and self-reported experiences instead of off-putting semi-religious conversations about souls and spirits.

She’s the author who let me start being me and start being open and out to my loved ones about who I am and let me luck out in first exploring my identity in a space where there was strong social support and acceptance. What she provided for me with one little book, I cannot ever hope to pay back.

So why in Bob’s ever-loving spatial taint am I giving her post, the Sadly, No! treatment? When it would be so easy to just walk on past and never reference it. When it’s not that bad and I owe her so much?

Well, it’s because the Richard Dawkins post put something into sharper relief. And that’s that no one should be given a free pass just because they’ve managed to do something right or because their works touched you or even because you usually agree with them. People are people. We all swim in this toxic culture together and we inherit all manner of hideous messages and vile assumptions and we can all fuck the hell up and trip violently on our own privilege.

And we shouldn’t get to just smile it away and pretend like we didn’t because people are willing to pretend it away so they don’t have to taint the memories of what was positive with a negative. And it does a disservice to everything and makes it so hard to deal with life as is. Because there’s a lot of fucked up problematic stuff or people. And by not giving a pass to “heroes” one can accept the bitter duality of Roman Polanski being a child raping fuck who should be rotting in jail being just as true as Rosemary’s Baby being a feminist classic that everyone should watch, without ripping oneself in twain.

And so Julia Serano can be the author I will recommend to all my friends and the subject of today’s evisceration.

No Gods. No masters. No heroes.

Shorter (or the last port before Jungle):

  • Ugh, you know what’s annoying? When queer-identified women erase the maleness of transmen and the sexual orientations of bisexuals, panssexuals, and queers. Which is why I’m going to describe that phenomenon by denigrating a word mostly used by transmen to explain their life experiences and avoid terminology that erases their maleness and attack trans* inclusive queer sexual orientations and erase their self-identity and view them only as one thing in order to yell at them for being this bad thing that I am annoyed by… even though that doesn’t describe them and is only actually hurting the groups I claimed to be coming to the defense of.

You know that form of “help” where you try and be a good ally and just end up punching the group you were just trying to help… and a few innocent bystanders all in the name of defending against a real phenomenon that you don’t actually use the correct examples to identify and every attempt to clarify just leads to revealing some inherited cultural crap? Yeah… it’s that sort of train wreck.

Well, enough stalling, let’s jump in.

I read blogs. And an unfortunate consequence of reading blogs is that sometimes you stumble upon statements that make you upset.

… Haaaa. Oh, irony.

Lately, I’ve been dwelling over one single sentence from a blog post that I read a few months ago. The author was a femme-identified cis woman who described her identity this way:

“I only say I’m queer to steer clear of sex acts with cisgender men whilst simultaneously accommodating my devout lesbianism and propensity towards dating trans men when the butch pool feels too shallow.”

Three major things (well, four, but I can get into the fourth a little bit later on).

First, hey everybody, welcome to the deep end of the QUILTBAG pool where we’re dealing with some of the Advanced Queer Shit for like the Graduate Students. I’ll try and explain it as I go, but if you get lost, I apologize. On that note, let’s talk about queer as a sexual orientation. Basically “queer” and its sister self-identification “pansexual” are attempts by what would more commonly be understood as the “bisexual” community to acknowledge the fact that the term bisexual isn’t exactly the most… robust of terminologies. Seeing as how people can come in a number of gender identities that don’t always match up with the gender binary such as agendered, genderqueer, non-gendered, multigendered, two-spirit, etc… it can seem a bit bizarre and offensive to self-identify with terminologies that erases those identities, especially if you are or have been in relationships with said people (or are seeking them out or just open to them).

Blah blah, blah shorter version, it’s a transgender spectrum inclusive means of self-identifying and deliberately not erasing the gender identity of those one dates. As seen in the example here where the person who is about to be eviscerated by Julia Serano deliberately notes that it would be dismissive to the transmen she finds herself attracted to to identify as lesbian and that this attraction makes her queer rather than lesbian.

Which brings up two. The quote highlighted here is part of a longer section that goes:

For years, I’ve been told that I’m sexually “repressed,” “withholding,” and “lazy.” Once, a bold young genderqueer who I refused to piss on even went so far as to accuse me of being “sex-negative.” That all may be true, but maybe that’s all part of my radical queer femme identity.

Okay, so it’s not. I’m in no way radical. I only say I’m queer to steer clear of sex acts with cisgender men whilst simultaneously accommodating my devout lesbianism and propensity towards dating trans men when the butch pool feels too shallow. I’m femme exclusively in relation to the length of my hair and staunch refusal to reciprocate many sex acts. In other words, I’m not actually a radical queer femme, nor do I even know what it means to be one. But who are you, fellow queer, to challenge anyone’s indulgent and nonsensical interpretation of an established identity?

The section is highly self-deprecating and borders on self-abusive. Beating herself up for not feeling she is living up to societal expectations of how she is read and what she acknowledges in her attractions. It’s worth pointing this out and the fact that she’s still working out who she is versus what she feels she has to perform because it puts into frame a lot of the things Julia Serano is about to displace onto her later. This isn’t some snarky, oh, I only pretend to see transmen as men post like will soon be suggested. It’s actually downright heartbreaking.

On that note, three, oh Bob is it heartbreaking. I’ve read the entire post, which is almost entirely about how she isn’t that into sex but feels she needs to perform and be this expected ideal role and meet the standards that come from being seen as that. And I’ve read that story a million times before.

On AVEN, home of asexuality. So, inside baseball, again, asexuality is when you aren’t sexually attracted to any of the sexes. But that’s not the whole story. See, just like there is an infinite spectrum of bisexuality between homosexuality and heterosexuality. And a spectrum of gender between man and woman. There’s a spectrum between being a sexual (someone who experiences sexual attraction) and being an asexual. And that spectrum is called grey-asexuality. It includes a number of different life experiences including being demisexual (which is where one only can become sexually attracted to someone after the establishment of a strong emotional connection, often in the context of a long-term romantic relationship), single-target (being sexually attracted to only one person, but strongly sexually attracted to them regardless of their gender identity or presentation), those who are intermittently sexual, low-libido sexuals, those who are attracted to kink roles rather than people (can be sexually attracted to say the act of being dominated, but not to people), and so on…

So yeah, to jump back to the point (too late), yeah, she might not use the terms. She may not even know the term exists and in fact I am willing to bet she doesn’t, hence the confusion and grasping for a language to describe her experience that aches across every paragraph. But it’s what she describes. And that is heartbreaking, because being someone who went without a language to understand my experiences for a majority of my life, I know how it feels to be literally grasping at straws and just feeling uniquely “wrong”.

But it’s also worth noting before I jump back to Julia Serano’s post that this isn’t some ace versus trans* internal war. In fact, the first time I read this post this last week, I didn’t even click over to the original post. It just adds another sad layer of fucked up to what’s about to transpire.

And on that foreboding note…

I have become preoccupied with this quote, not because it is unusual or extraordinary – on the contrary, these are very commonplace sentiments among queer women these days. Rather, my interest in this quote stems from how perfectly it illustrates the subtle ways in which exclusion transpires in today’s queer women’s communities.

Lots of queer women describe grey-asexual confusion over how their attractions operate and the expectations of performance that often come with being liberated… or no… not really. I mean, it totally does occur, but I mean, not exactly the most common circumstances to come about.

First, she defines “queer” in terms of her “devout lesbianism” and “steering clear of cisgender men.” Given her definition, a bisexual woman (such as me), who sometimes does have sex with cis men, must automatically be *not* queer—aka, straight. Ah, the decades old lesbian tradition of erasing the B out of LGBT.

…Um…no. Sorry, but the long-jump competition was on the field a half-hour ago. Though impressive, we’ll still have to disqualify you.

And yeah, this brings up the fourth thing about the original post and quote. Yeah, cis straight men can be totes nifty. They can also be a little frightening and unsafe. Not a slam on cis straight dudes. Most of them are downright cool dudes that are not only fun to hang with but can be fun to fool around with for those who are into that sort of thing.

But the ones who aren’t? Really aren’t. There’s a reason that there were things like the extinct niceguysofokcupid.tumblr.com pointing out the hideous worldviews of people claiming to be nice straight guys that bitches weren’t dating for no good reason. Or why OkCupid in general has an option not to be seen by straight people if you mark yourself as bisexual (it also does not have the most robust self-identification system). The kind of guys who think “no” means “press harder” or who think sending 20,000 messages asking if you like gargling cum is a great opening line. And the worst part of it is that these types of assholes tend to view bisexuals as some sort of holy grail that equals being willing to enact porn fantasies of two women gargling his balls while only sharing chaste kisses between each other.

As a person dating someone who has identified as bisexual for a long time, I know well the kind of douchebag that is lurking out there and what they think being bisexual means in terms of being “easy” or a living fantasy. And for someone who is already a bit shaky about standing up for their consent and being honest about where they are sexually, fighting that sort of pressure is probably something they don’t need in their life and there’s no real shame in sticking with groups that are at least better (not perfect, obviously, people are still raped by queer identified folks), but better on consent (more aware of what it is and why one should respect it).

And honestly, though I worship Julia Serano, awareness of the rape culture and the awkwardness that can instill is one of her biggest blind spots. Her included essay in Yes Means Yes, an anthology setting out a better means of ensuring enthusiastic consent, was a horrible missing the point mess about how girls didn’t put out for nice guys enough which… talk about wrong venue.

Second, she describes trans men as though they are not *really* men

Not really, she notes her awareness of trans* men and that her dating of and attraction to makes her something other than a lesbian. That’s respecting gender identities. Unless you are demanding that trans men don’t count unless someone is willing to fuck cis men as well, in which case, whose the one erasing maleness from trans* men?

but just another variety of butch woman.

Again, not really. The original post writer stated an attraction to butchness in general, i.e. that she is attracted to masculinity. Which isn’t exactly the same as “maleness”. One being the gender performance (interests, mannerisms, ways of dressing and acting) and one being one’s gender identity (who one is). In other words there can be feminine dudes and masculine women and feminine women and masculine dudes and people who fall in all manner of the in-between.

You know who taught me that? That one could still be a woman and super masculine or a man and super feminine? Ah shit, I think it started with a Ju and ended with a Lia Serano.

Indeed, trans male acceptance and desirability in queer women’s spaces often hinges on this assumption, which is partly why so many FTM-spectrum folks who are on “T,” prefer the pronoun “he,” and move through the world as men, nevertheless disavow any male-identification.

Scare quotes around he pronouns and the universal slang for Testosterone (a common hormone injection for trans* men), classy.

And not really on this phenomenon unless you are slagging trans* men who don’t cut off all ties to the lesbian or feminist communities just because they are men now, which, um, kinda of a douche move if they still identify with communities they belonged to for so long and built support networks and strong friendships in.

But from my perspective, the most poignant aspect of this quote is that there is absolutely no mention of trans women.

Well, no specific mention of trans* women. Which, um, one would kinda expect, unless the author really was a transphobe who deliberately separated out trans* women from the greater population of “women”. Call me a bad activist, but I don’t see the point in calling people out for lacking deeply problematic shit in their worldviews.

We are absent, irrelevant, just as we are in most queer women’s spaces.

I’ll be sure to report it to the mass of trans* women I see at most queer women’s spaces in my area. An area, I’ll note is the same general area in which Julia Serano makes her home.

I suppose that this isn’t surprising. If, like the author, most cis queer women believe that trans men are really butch women, then trans women must really be men. And, given this, if they believe that dating men disqualifies them from being queer, then trans women aren’t even going to be on their radar.

There’s enough real stupid shit that trans* people face in day to day society, that we don’t really need to leap to conclusions and make ourselves look like complete prats.

Especially when she is really close to talking about a real problem in the midst of using a terrible fucking example of it. There is sometimes an attitude in, especially deliberately transphobic spaces like Michigan Womyn’s Festival, of recognizing trans* men as women and trans* women as men and thus denying actual gender identities in terms of some bizarre genitals as destiny bullshit.

Which ironically enough is the reason for the rise of specifically trans* inclusive women’s spaces that are open to anyone who identifies as a woman as well as in addition, trans* -identified men and non-binary individuals who wish to participate.

We’ve been winning that war and it’s been a good thing for all.

But anyways, yeah, you can see what I mean, just sort of missing the point, not really anything so terrible ye-

Lately, I’ve begun calling this mindset the FAAB-mentality.


Um, the fuck? You’re calling the transphobic attitudes of a minority of fuckhead venue operators the word trans* people created in order to move beyond bullshit like “genetic women” or “biomen” and all of the other crap that put one’s assigned sex at birth (what the AAB of FAAB and MAAB means) over their real biological sex (it doesn’t stop being biology just because it’s in your brain chemistry). I mean, do you even understand the history you’re dismi-

FAAB is an acronym for female-assigned-at-birth. Both FAAB and its counterpart MAAB (male-assigned-at-birth) were originally coined by trans activists in order to challenge invalidating concepts such as “birth sex,” “bio boys” and “genetic girls,” and to stress that our gender identities are far more relevant than how the straight world nonconsensually categorized us when we were babies.

Oh you do. Well, great. Then you decided to be an asshole on purpose. Great job.

Yet somehow, over the last few years, FAAB has been appropriated by many cis queer women who wish to convey their affiliation with trans men, and to distance themselves trans women as well as cis men.

For instance, the musician Bitch recently wrote an “open letter” explaining why her support of trans woman-excluding women’s spaces is not “transphobic.” She begins her letter by dismissing cis/trans terminology, then she reframes the issue in terms of FAABs versus MAABs. Again, this is not an isolated incident—one can see FAAB-mentality rear its ugly head in radical-feminist blogs, butch/femme settings, and trans events. I’ve even seen queer folks wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the word FAABulous.


Okay, Ms. Serano, I respect you a shit ton, but no, just no. Idiots and bigots having to migrate to our better terminology is a good thing. It’s a sign that the attitudes of exclusion and denial of sex are fading and they are having to be more and more specific on what they are talking about which gets closer and closer to the real problem and the real ugly assumptions taking place.

And unfortunately reveals some nasty nuance. Like for instance, “FAABulous” on a queer person. Um, yeah. As noted before, it’s a term mostly used by trans* people and their allies. Unless that FAABulous t-shirt was being worn by some fuckhead holding a sign saying trans* women out of our bathrooms, it’s more likely that that person wearing it is a male-identified person acknowledging their past or a genderqueer person trying to reclaim their identity than some asshole intending to wound.

Which, speaking of assholes and wounding. Um, referring to the actions of transphobic bigots by a term most likely to be used in self-identification by trans* men (the group you are pretending to rally to the defense of) is beyond fucked up. It’d be like if I criticized racist tirades by saying they have a “Black Power” mentality. And then tried to defend that fucked up reference by going “nah, it’s cool, I’m referencing the way they talk about Black Power as a bad thing”. No, sorry, I don’t care how awesome you are, that’s a fuck up. And a pretty bad one as well.

So let me state for the record: I am not a fucking MAAB!

Yes, you are. And I am as well.

Which gets into another problem I’ve had with you in the past and something the musician Bitch touched on briefly. Just because you or I may lack male privilege, doesn’t mean we haven’t gained privilege by having been raised as if we were male.

Being raised in our culture as assumed boys, grants benefits denied to those who have been raised in our culture as girls. I am allowed greater comfort with my anger in a way those who have been raised female have to fight. I do not usually have my adolescence sexual discovery coincide with discovering the rape culture for the first time. I did not inherit messages of sexual shame or that I was less than my fellow humans or trained in a thousand performance rituals of makeup and body shame. I got to avoid a lot of crap because the world viewed me as a little boy.

That’s not to say I avoided everything and I got my share of the crap kicked out of me growing up “strange”, but I carry some privilege as well. And ironically enough the one who taught me that was also you, specifically how you denied that privilege in your work in Yes Means Yes, believing that your identity as a woman didn’t mean you didn’t inherit cultural messages that people were supposed to perform sexually for you on your expectations not their comfort levels.

We may reject that part of our past, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us.

I am a trans woman. And unlike all the so-called “FAAB FTMs” who move freely in queer women’s spaces, I identify and move through the world as a woman. The whole fucking point of trans activism is to get people to respect us for who we are, not for what the straight world expected us to grow up to be when we were mere babies. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who categorizes any trans person based upon how we were coercively assigned at birth is not merely being anti-trans, but they are quite literally engaging in baby talk.

Indeed, this is a good point. We shouldn’t let ourselves be bound by that as we acknowledge that and we should call out those who obsess over this period without a damn good reason directly relating to the life experience of having been raised as if one was a girl (and sorry, but listening to music and fucking in tents doesn’t exactly qualify).

Which is what makes the rest of this piece so frustrating to deal with. There are good points, relating to the dismissal of trans* identities by a specific group of people, but she’s using the wrong damn examples and the wrong damn terms.

The problem isn’t “FAAB-mentality” in “queer” spaces. It’s bigotry in bigoted spaces. It’s not trans*-inclusive self-identifications, it’s people who refuse to acknowledge their attraction to trans* men makes them anything less than 100% lesbian. It’s not people using a trans*-supportive self-description of life experiences, it’s those that pretend that those life-experiences and assignment at birth should rule one’s entire life as if what a doctor said is more important than what is true.

And frankly, that is a battle we are winning. We can see it in the majority of queer spaces fully accepting transgendered individuals and the way that things like Michigan Womyn’s Festival or Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists are looked at as archaic throwbacks to a worse time. We can see it in the number of people who turn to self-identifications like queer and pansexual to acknowledge the way their sexual identities encompass the in-between. We can see it in the way our lives are getting a little less shit every day. At least in certain communities.

But FAAB-mentality isn’t only transphobic—it’s also biphobic, specifically toward bi women who are sexual with cis men. It plays into baseless accusations that bisexual-identified women “reinforce the binary,” yet celebrates those who embrace the supposedly more righteous label “pansexual.” Now I have nothing against the term “pansexual” per se. But in queer women’s circles, it is often used as a code word to communicate: “I am sexual with everyone except cis men and trans women.”

Bull-fucking-shit! On every count. So, you don’t want to abandon bisexual as your self-identification, so what? It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t describe, quite literally a binary. And frankly, that might work for you seeing as how you don’t personally identify with genderqueer individuals and in your main sexual attractions that you describe, you show more sexual interest in men and women and less with those who blur the lines or avoid them completely.

But that doesn’t mean you have to deny the reality of the identity or slam its alternative because you want to feel better about what you have chosen as your label.

I know pansexuals. I know pansexuals who are cis and those who are trans*. I identify myself as one who is theoretically panromantic because I am open to the concept of forming romantic relationships with people of all gender identities even though in practice I’ve only dated ciswomen.

Not a damn one of them uses “pansexual” as an exclusionary term meaning only ciswomen and trans* men. In fact a damn high number of them are either currently dating or have dated cismen in the past. At least half of them are either currently dating or have dated trans* women in the past.

And this kind of lazy argument, trying to draw a universal from a misreading of one single blog-reader’s self identification as if this describes the majority of queer and panssexual experiences is just well… beneath you.

You are Julia Serano, the great who talked about just what experiences trans* men and trans* women had and didn’t go overboard with bullshit and nonsense about transgendered experiences being “more noble” or any of that crap. You don’t need to stretch your facts to fit your point, because you’re usually making a point that is on target and isn’t a defensive retaliation to the way your self-identification of bisexuality has been falling out of favor by trans*-inclusive people.

Which is why it’s more annoying to see you pull this reflexive regressive crap.

Finally, despite all the cis femmes who have embraced FAAB terminology (as it allows them to partner with trans men yet still be considered lesbian),

Fuck you. Trans*-inclusive terminology is a good fucking thing and frankly it should be a good thing that people aren’t thrown out of lesbian general culture because they happen to love a little cock from time to time or find Harold the boi really fucking dapper or are in fact a trans* man who doesn’t want to lose the connections, friendships, and community they have built over the years. Who still identifies with the culture and doesn’t need some insecure trans* woman dumping on them for being “transphobic” just because they feel that connection still.

FAAB-mentality is highly femmephobic. After all, we live in a queer culture that valorizes sexual- and gender-non-conformity. So when FAAB-mentality defines womanhood in terms of being labeled “girl” as a baby, then the most queerest, coolest thing you can grow up to be is androgynous, or butch, or trans masculine. In other words, FAAB-mentality is inexorably linked to masculine-centrism in queer women’s communities. As a result, femmes are viewed as suspect, unless of course they prove their queerness by pairing with someone more outwardly gender-non-conforming than them.

Oh fuck you. You want to pretend that somebody acknowledging that their relationships with genderqueer individuals and trans* men makes them something other than homosexual is some transphobic slur and then pull this fucking shit?!?

No. Just no. I’m sorry, but this is transphobic against trans* men and genderqueer individuals. This is erasing their identities and pretending that who they are is an illusion. And the fucked up thing is you fucking well know better than to pull this shit.

To pretend that trans* men would put themselves through this shit, suffer all the crap thrown at trans* people out of some bullshit “rebellion” against sexism. Because it’s somehow easier to be out as a trans* person than out as a woman.

It’s sick whiny crap that ignores the reality of transgendered individuals and how much shittier their lives are. That in fact, also ignores just how shitty it is for anyone who defies cultural expectations of gender performance in our society. And tries to pretend that people who can easily pass as straight people, who can easily pass as something non-targeted somehow have it the worst of all because sometimes they’re overlooked by queer dating prospects and read as straight.

I’m sorry, but fuck your pity party and fuck the way you are willing to shit on most of your transgender brothers, sisters, and siblings just to externalize one of the few rare points where you do experience privilege.

So I say: let’s stop talking in baby talk! Let’s purge the terms FAAB and MAAB from our queer vocabularies [*see clarifications below*].

Ha. Yeah, we’ll jump into those exploratory holes to the center of the Earth later.

And most importantly, let’s stop viewing the world through the distorted lens of FAAB-mentality, as it inevitably causes femme, bisexual and trans women to be treated as second-class queer citizens.

No, it doesn’t. In reality, more inclusive spaces, means the trans* femme pansexual girlfriend of my partner can walk in and be accepted for who she is and for what she wants.

And it’s frustrating to see Julia Serano selling this “femme” as queen crap, when she was the one most emphasizing that one could be a bit butch as a trans* woman and that was okay.

Instead of fetishizing birth assignments and masculine gender expression, let’s create new heterogeneous queer women’s communities that celebrate difference—where a woman doesn’t have to be born a particular way, or have sex a particular way, or dress or express their genders a particular way, or fulfill some kind of queer stereotype, in order to be appreciated.

And we can do that by making trans* men and butch women feel like second-class citizens! Doesn’t that sound so much more preferable than the trans*-inclusive queer women’s spaces that are already readily available in my area and are catching on around the globe?

And yeah, emphasis on that point, the queer spaces around her are pretty damn inclusive on that mark. Which she already knows because she’s been asked to speak at a number of them and she’s done some of the activism work to make them that way. So when she says the majority of queer and pan spaces around her are transphobic and erase her, she is lying. For no good reason.

Oh yeah, her attempts at rescuing herself from her own hole. Let’s not forget those.

endnote: I understand the need to talk about transgender spectrums, and to develop language that accommodates trans people who don’t fully identify as trans women or trans men. Rather than using MAAB and FAAB, I believe that we should refer to people who have a MTF trajectory as being on the trans female/feminine spectrum, and those with a FTM trajectory as being on the trans male/masculine spectrum.

Yeah, let’s just literally erase those who do not identify as either masculine or feminine or male or female and definitely erase those who are feminine dudes or masculine women. That sounds like so much a better system than lightly acknowledging what people assigned at birth and then identifying by one’s correct identity whether that be something like trans* man or trans* woman or something like an agendered genderqueer dykefag leatherboi (no, that’s not a joke, that’s someone’s real self-identification).

And yeah, I know “transmasculine spectrum” and the like are catching on in academic articles on trans* issues, but I fucking hate that shit. I hate the way masculinity or femininity are conflated with being male or female in a transgendered way, because that’s part of the cage that lead me to be so miserable for so long.

And since people seem to love acronyms when referring to trans people (a tendency I personally find rather dehumanizing), we could refer to these categories as the TF and TM spectrums, respectively (where the “F” in TF can refer to either female and/or feminine, and the “M” in TM refers can refer to either male and/or masculine). I believe that this terminology is fully inclusive, and centers our experiences on our self-identities and self-understandings, rather than non-consensual birth assignments.

And it only comes at the expense of pretending away a large number of life experiences and completely conceding the terminology of our assigned at birth sex to the bigots who wanted to use terms that emphasized a notion of trans-artificiality (like biogirls or genetically male or worst of all just referring to what was assigned as one’s sex and everything else as some nebulous proto-rebellion against the iron-clad rule of King Genitals).

another note (added 3-7-13): in response to one reader’s comment (see below), I want to offer this clarification: For the record, I am not 100% against talking about sex assigned at birth – it is relevant in many instances. Indeed, that’s why gender variant folks invented FAAB/MAAB terminology, so that we could talk about that aspect of our person without invalidating our current identity (whatever that might be). My main beef is with how those terms have been co-opted by cis queer women who now use them as labels to categorize people, and to impart legitimacy upon FAAB folks, and suspicion onto MAAB folks. My intention with this piece is not to censor MAAB/FAAB terminology completely, but rather to raise awareness about how these terms are regularly used to invalidate trans gender identities and expressions, as well as other queer identities (e.g., bisexual and femme).

yet another note, added 3-8-13: as I said in the previous note, I recognize that MAAB & FAAB have some usefulness, which is why gender variant communities invented that terminology in the first place. When I said we should “purge these terms from our queer vocabularies,” I was specifically referring to using those acronyms as catch-all terms to describe MTF & FTM spectrum folks, respectively [and have added this note to make that clear].

Note to well-meaning allies and activists everywhere. If you find yourself adding three notes trying to clarify how the word choices you used were intended to strike at bigots rather than the group that more regularly uses the terminology, consider just fixing the fucking terminologies rather than trying to die on that fucking hill like a dumbass.

It’s okay to admit you are wrong, like the time I… urk… too painful to admit fault… eyes growing dim… will… I… dream…?

I have no problems with people self-identifying as MAAB or FAAB if they feel that that’s the best fit for them. But when people nonconsensually conceptualize and categorize a trans woman like myself as a “MAAB,” it is no different than when pathologizing psychologists refer to me as a “transsexual man,” or when cis rad fems refer to me as a “man-born-womyn.” I do not identify with my birth sex! That is the problem with using MAAB and FAAB as catch-all categories for trans folks: it centers our identities on nonconsensual acts committed against us, rather than recognizing our gender identities and expressions. And that is what cissexist forces have been trying to do to us all along.

Remember kiddies, recognizing a point of relative privilege is exactly the same as raw bigotry and hatred. No, that argument’s not at all like right-wingers saying blacks are the real racists for calling out white privilege bullshit. Why would you even say that?

Bob damnitt, I love you Julia Serano, but the more you try and deny that trans* women like us have never experienced privilege for having been read male for a period of our lives, it just makes my teeth clench. Especially when you inevitably reveal exactly what that type of privilege looks like.

I feel like trans female/feminine and trans male/masculine are decent attempts to rectify this problem. After all, most trans people on the MTF spectrum gravitate toward the direction of either female gender identities and/or feminine gender expression, even if we never fully identify as female or feminine. [and to clarify again, the “/” is meant to be read as “and/or.”] But some commenters have nevertheless said that they don’t like that terminology. I am open to entertaining other possibilities.

Well, as long as it fits most experiences, then why should we give a damn about the minority it doesn’t fit. Like with one’s assigned at birth gender. It fits most people perfectly, so why should we give a damn about the minority it doesn’t fit?

Oh sorry, is it not supposed to count when it applies to me and you?

Once again, the main point of this piece was to critique FAAB-mentality

Stop digging this fucking hole! You had to do three corrections over how this terminology thoroughly failed to encompass what you wanted it to encompass. Just fucking abandon it already and move the fuck on. Not everything is a fucking hill to die on.

(and how it undermines femme, bisexual and trans women in queer women’s communities), rather than to critique FAAB & MAAB terminology (which I had no problems with until they were co-opted by others to dismiss trans women’s and trans men’s identities).

And the evidence for this occurring was, I’ll note again, pretty fucking sparse and most of the examples you picked didn’t actually cite what you were talking about. Maybe we’d be willing to give you more slack if your proofs actually proved what you are claiming and people didn’t have real-world knowledge that your characterizations of things like pansexual and queer groups was completely off base and alien to actual lived experience.

I.e. if you were less of a reflexive bigot to them out of misplaced defense of a bisexual identity and the problematic undertones it can carry.

Finally, as I have said elsewhere (see Bisexuality and Binaries Revisited), I have nothing against the term pansexual, and I am fine with people who choose to self-identify that way. But I have observed a tendency in queer women’s communities for queer women who partner with trans men but not cis men to use the self-descriptor pansexual, rather than bisexual (presumably because the latter is associated with women who do partner with cis men). I am not insinuating that this is true of all people who choose the label pansexual. But it is a trend I’ve observed.

People who fuck people who are trans* identified may be less likely to use a self-identifier that erases non binary individuals and may be more sensitive to such shit? Well, clearly the real bigots have been found and it was totally justified to reflexively bash pansexuals and trans* men and erase the identities of non-binary individuals and those with non-conforming gender performances.

Or maybe, just maybe, being right 99% of the time, doesn’t stop someone from slamming face first into their own privilege that last 1% of the time and sounding like a complete douchebag whining about “the kids today” and their “strange terminologies” that aren’t like in “my time”.

And maybe, just maybe, this post serves as a warning to us all to try and stay aware of stuff to avoid making the same common, human mistake that knocks us all of our pedestals from time to time and reminds us to always strive to do better and keep up.

If heroes can fuck up, can infuriate you, then so can anyone else. And it’s also worth noting both the difference between those who try and improve and those who outright refuse to. And the similarities in the desire to just dig deep and defend the fucked up rather than admit fault.

It’s easy to become a douchebag. It’s hard to not. And that’s the clearest lesson of all.

And despite me saying all that, I still absolutely love her and highly recommend Whipping Girl to those who are interested in trans* issues.

‘Shorter’ concept created by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard. It was a great relief to realize that all of your heroes will eventually let you down so it’s no use pretending they are going to be anything less than predictably human. That way the only way you can be surprised… is pleasantly. We are aware of all Internet traditions.™


Comments: 21


Frist? I dint notice Cerb’s ‘new post’, so there is a bunch of Fenwick babble at the end of the last one. No wonder I felt so lonely.


I can’t really get into identifying myself as “pansexual” because the definition I’ve heard of it is being attracted to the person, not the gender, and that doesn’t describe my lopsided attraction. I feel different things for men than from women. That doesn’t mean I’d kick out anyone who didn’t neatly fit into the binary.


Cerb: Wow. 92 paragraphs, not counting the inserts from Serrano. I tried hard to understand it, because my closest friend in the world is trans*…and I’ve learned much through through your prior posts.

But I was totally lost by the subtle shadings and multiple terminology. Felt like the post would have clearer with a glossary I could refer to (without back-and-forthing to the Urban Dictionary). And a diagram might have been helpful, perhaps a Venn diagram. Or perhaps multiple Venn diagrams to discuss the fine shadings of terminology.

I’m left speechless. Literally speechless, because I’m now afraid of offending my friend by using the wrong terminology. This was way too much Inside Baseball for my simple brane. Not recommended for the Best of Cerebrus anthology. You know I admire and enjoy yer writing, Cerb. I’m just being honest.

Your internets friend,


Insert ‘been’ in 2nd para.



Nah, that definitely was my main worry going into this one. I’ve got one that’s way easier to digest in the works. So I guess enjoy the drinks and hors d’oeuvre in the meantime.

And as far as to your friend. Just use the pronouns they prefer, whether that be “she”, “he” or something else and it’s all good.

And if you fuck up, apologize. If they are your buddy, they’ll know that you are trying and that’s really all that matters.


Thanx. She’s very patient and forgiving–one of the reasons I love her. I’ve known her for well over thirty years; I still screw up from time to time and use her former name.


Wow, after a sustained absence I came back for a look-see at a blog I used to enjoy for the snark. I think this post finally made me realize that I didn’t stop reading Sadly No; it stopped reading me.

I wish you all the luck in the world with whatever Sadly No has morphed into.



Sorry, it’s not usually this esoteric. The same great snark taste is available on the usual posts and if you are still around, I welcome you to click back to my last post: I Was a Right-Wing Anarchist or one of Provider’s recent posts as I think they’ll be more what you remember. This was an experiment that has clearly failed pretty bad, so I apologize for that.


I also am an oldtimer who randomly came by today, but I’m glad to be learning something. The increasing ability of trans folk to be openly and visibly who they simply are has helped me recognize some blind spots in my awareness.
What I’m struggling with a little is the tl;dr summary. It’s about misuse of charged contextual language in a misguided attempt to be a sort of purity police?



I admit I got lost among the finer points of gender issues, but somehow I’m glad you wrote this. It feels like you needed to say it (and that it needed to be said, even if a lot of us are going to need a glossary).


Speaking of admitting fuck ups. Sorry all.

There’s a matter of what is Sadly, No! What it means and what people are looking for. I tried something new here and with that comes some chance of giant failure. As a teacher, I know if the end result of something is a lot of people feeling lost and alienated, then that means I’ve failed to communicate myself clearly and with engagement.

I apologize to those who were turned off by it. I apologize more to those who were merely confused and lost and feeling like they should have got it. That’s on me. Not anyone else.

There’s a new post up now.

I hope you enjoy and once again, whoops, I’m sorry.


Don’t worry about it. I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that you’ve done a stellar job keeping this blog alive with some great, righteously enraged writing in these past couple years, and you’ve earned the right to go on any tangent you please and I’m willing to pay attention to any thoughts you need to get off your chest.

Shorter me: Let Cerb be Cerb!

The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

Shorter me: Let Cerb be Cerb!

I agree completely. This was very educational. I’ll probably have to go over it again to really get the most out of it—I’ve led a pretty sheltered life, I guess—but learning about these issues is important as we leave the Ozzie and Harriet world I grew up in farther and farther behind. (That’s a good thing, of course.)


I’m not turned off by any of it. I love watching Cerb be Cerb. I think that writing is some of the best I’ve ever seen.

That said, quite frankly, I could give a crap about anybody’s sexuality or what it means. I’m 61 years old, have no goddamn libido anymore, and, since my sweetie committed suicide back in Feb 2012, I just don’t care anymore. If I get a little frisson of sexual arousal these days, it just makes me cry, because it makes me remember him.

Yeah this is a little inside baseball, Cerb. But it’s interesting. Everything you write is always interesting.


Hi Cerberus,

As a fellow unicorn (aka trans), with all the bias and baggage that carries with it, I’m glad you wrote this, and even more glad that you posted it.

I may be in the minority in that I understood the inside baseball* and while I’m not entirely in agreement with you, I largely am, and I some of the things you wrote gave me a new perspective – like that notion that a hate group can’t really co-opt a label without subverting their own ideology – or at least as I understood what you wrote about the use of MAAB and FAAB. That in particular is a heartening idea, and I hope you’re right. I’ve always believed that the subversion was happening in the other direction – sort of like when racists redefine “racist” , and it makes my heart hurt, but I’ll keep what you wrote in mind next time I see something like that (and actually I did just today on that den of lowbrow iniquity, the Book of Face.

*I happen to loathe the fact that we have such a deeply confusing labyrinth of terminology – sometimes I think it makes us less accessible to people – maybe there’s too many unicorns with PhDs. j/k =)


I’m a former regular who randomly came back today and I truly enjoyed this piece. It was provocative, I learned a lot, and I was inspired to learn more – and you deployed your sadlynaught acerbity with wit and style.

I understand your concerns about venue and speaking to a broad audience – but I hope that you don’t take those worries too far, for two reasons:

1) when you write to a general audience, and mean by that “cis folks who don’t know much about trans* terminology,” you re-center cis experiences. The world is confusing. Coddling our privilege by spoon-feeding us does us no favors, it only affirms the idea that our assumptions are good and natural and that marginalized people bear the burden of interpreting their experiences to us in a way that we can easily digest.

2) the internet is too segmented into homogenous little communities already. speaking at your level respects us as readers, by presuming that we can either follow along or bring ourselves up to speed with the magic of google.

Please don’t think of your post as a “failed experiment” – IMO it is one of the best I’ve read here.


What pedestrian said.


Oy, both Serrano and the other quoted person were wielding language with all the finesse of a flopping flounder.

Personally, i’m enjoying the current non-use of third-gender pronouns for those who didn’t ask for them and the use of trans-men to mean men and trans-women to mean women, regardless of femme/butch values. Academia seems to have fallen behind what makes hearts feel better.

…Although I don’t think I’ll ever accept ‘trap’ as anything other than a slur.


Hi. I read the site regularly although I don’t comment often. It seems like this disagreement over terms is something that could be fixed over drinks, or some other social lubricant. You’re both very firmly on the same side as far as I could tell. It’s super strange to see all the infighting we QUILTBAG folks do. I think part of it is that it’s just difficult to explain your life experience to anyone. It’s one of those things were we see the mote in our brother’s eye and he see’s the mote in ours while our opponents are still stuck in the dark somewhere off over there. It’s way easier to fight each other than them. Anyway, I enjoyed the article, long as it was.


Late, and I hope you’re okay, Cerb. Thanks for writing this essay. I just found out about Julia Serano (been putting off transitioning for years and finally took the plunge) and I was horrified by this blog post.

Here’s my thing: I’m attracted to feminine people, doesn’t matter what sex they were assigned at birth. But if somebody else is attracted to people with vulvas, regardless of gender presentation, who am I to say my sexuality is jim dandy and theirs is wrong and counterrevolutionary? I don’t know how sexual attraction works, and neither do you. Show some humility, Serano.


not a gator-

*hugs* And good luck with transition stuff. It was very healing for me and I hope that that is true for you as well.


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